Twitter's New Strategy: Serving Up What They Think Is Relevant to Me

I got this new now-weekly email today from Twitter. If you have a Twitter account, you probably received one also, which looks similar to mine. Note: This is a longggg graphic — there's more blog content below it, so don't give up quite yet.)


Twitter has quickly jumped on pushing their recent purchase of Summify into Twitter production in record time. (Summify was a start up social news aggregator that collected news from users' social networks and compiled it in daily emails.) According to Twitter's blog, they're delivering "The Best of Twitter" to my inbox.
If you glanced at my long, long graphic above, you can see that there are two parts to this new email, which are as follows, according to the Twitter blog: 
  • The first half is a "...summary [that] features the most relevant Tweets and stories shared by the people you’re connected to on Twitter."
  • The second half of the ginormous email "... features the most engaging Tweets seen by the people you follow, even if you don’t follow those who wrote them. You can see who from your network retweeted or favorited these Tweets and click “View details” to retweet, favorite, reply or view the conversation around them." 
And here's where I start to get uncomfortable. I was reminded of a Ted Talk video I watched late last year, and went digging for it, to see if I remembered correctly. And I did. Twitter's new summary doesn't prevent me from following specific tweeters and hashtags, but it seems to be the first step in becoming a gatekeeper by surfacing the content that the Twitter algorithms determine is relevant to me, and is yet another example of the "online 'filter bubbles'" that Eli Pariser talks about in his nine-minute TED Talk, that I've embedded below (and highly recommend you watch). TED summarizes the video this way, "As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy."

(A colleague and I tried the Google search experiment where we both searched on the same word, then compared what we found — and we did not get the same search results — so the online filter bubble is in play right now.)


 So in "summarizing" the stories and tweets sent to me in this weekly email, Twitter is perpetuating and embracing the "online filter bubble" that Eli Pariser talks about; deciding for me what is relevant to me, just by serving it up in a weekly email.  I subscribe to several social media aggregation emails — one of my favorites is from SmartBrief; but aggregating is what they do and it's what I expect of them.

All of this makes me wonder where we draw the line in this age of information overload, and how we choose between:
  • News customized to what you've looked at so far and the news and articles your social network is reading

    or
  • News that helps you stretch your mind and your opinions, and lets you step out of your clearly defined point of view to learn and decide on your own? 
So what do you think? Are they mutually exclusive? Do we have to choose one or the other? Or is there some way to make them both work?